Tuesday, December 02, 2008

The English media can be very infuriating. In the aftermath of the Mumbai siege (whose horror cannot possibly understated), these guys have launched a concerted campaign aimed at depoliticizing India's polity. A blanket condemnation of the entire set of current politicians as no-doers is annoying enough, but what really ticks me off is what they propose to do about it. Among the 'gems' that have come from the exalted mouths of the pretty guys and girls from CNN-IBN, Times Now and even NDTV 24X7 is that we guys should stop voting, cast a 'no' vote in the elections and not pay taxes. Even more ridiculous thoughts are packaged as angry Mumbai's reaction - stuff like 'Kill Politicians'.
Stop voting? Vote for a 'no'? Why? Dont these anchors realise that we are a democracy? That if we feel none of our current politicians are good enough we are allowed to stand ourselves? Shying away from elections is merely an attempt to avoiding responsibility. We cannot expects our leaders to discharge their duties if we do not elect those leaders capable and willing to do the same. Frankly, the Mumbai siege is as much a failure of leaders as it is of us people. And running away is no solution.
Not pay taxes you say? Ratna Pathak Shah was kind enough to remind us of the non-cooperation movement. Thank you ma'am. But do you realise that British being colonial masters left us with few options. In todays India if you want a regime change of the kind our freedom fighters launched a hundred movements for, all you have to do is vote for a change. JP Narayan wanted Indira out. He launched satyagrahas. He got jailed. But what eventually caused Indira's ouster was not loud chest-beating by Janata Party guys but the power of the ballot. Rajivji legitimized Shah Bano's plight, opened the gates (should I say the floodgates?) of the Babri and closed his eyes to Quattrochi's dealings. But to oust him we didn't have stop paying taxes - all we did is vote. By airing such fringe thoughts and presenting them as legitimate 'solutions' the media is doing great disservice to the us all. Not paying taxes will just cause mayhem and anarchy - probably cause our defence budget to collapse. Will anyone tell this to Mrs. Shah?
Anger is not necessarily a bad thing. But when it results in irrationality of the kind we are seeing, it becomes destructive.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Why Modi won't - and can't - lose
Narendrabhai's victory is, as Laluji kindly pointed out, spectacular. While many now claim that it was a foregone conclusion, few actually believed so. Nikhil and i certainly did so. Post-election analysis has thrown up lots of explanations. One of which I want to blabber about is - there was no strong Congress leader who could be projected as an alternative to Narendrabhai.
What is about Modi that so enamors the people of Gujarat? Simply put Modi rules, not as just a chief minister, but like a high king. A few examples will clarify this.
Take the case of the Modi government's grand celebration of festivals like Navratri, Uttrayan and, of course, Gujarat Gaurav Diwas (the foundation day of the state). Spanning over days, these festivals are about pomp, splendour and gaiety bordering on a decadence that, arguably, a democratic government can ill afford. A throwback to festivals that ancient festivals that Roman emperor's used to throw, u say?
The selection of city where Gujarat Gaurav Diwas is celebrated is also interesting. Narendrabhai, breaking with convention, decided that the foundation day would be celebrated outside the capital. This way he not just bring festivities to the homes of his subjects (like Vadodara) but also claims ancient legacy (like that of Patan - an ancient capital of Guajrat. Interestingly, the dynasties that ruled from here were the Solankis and Vaghelas. Ring a bell?).
The questionable diversion of precious water from Narmada in Sabarmati is a case point. Not really improving any water problems (which, to Modi's credit, is anyway far lesser than before), it serves merely one purpose - to show that Modi's Gujarat would have rivers full till the brim. Of course the diversion of waters was followed by a 'mammoth rally'. The diversion of Narmada into the former delta basins of Indus in Kutch was even better packaged. Admist a huge mela in Kutch, Modi declared that he had brought Indus itself to Kutch. He was hailed as the conqouerer of Indus by his supporters. Reminds one of Rajaraja Chola also known as Gangaikonda Chola (the Chola who conqouered Ganges), no?
The Modi masks are now farely well known. What is not known as well is the spread of legends and stories of Modi (variously his humility, extraordinary physical strength, bravery and even magical powers that control beasts!) is an integral part of the Modi campaign. These carefully scripted stories and legends remind me of stuff like Prithviraj Raso.
All this came to my mind when I was watching Final Solution. There was a guy being interviewed whose father and brothers were in jail for rioting. He claimed that he had done nothing and that local BJP leaders had framed his family so that they could escape. On being asked if he harboured any resentment against Modi he said he didn't and that Narendrabhai was above reproach. Much like that scene in Lagaan where the village Mukhiya says that 'राजाजी के खीलाफ़ कोई नही बोलेगा'.
It is not my claim that Narendrabhai is the first one to have built this cult around himself. Many others do have such cults around them, but none (save the Nehru-Gandhis) to the extent of Modi. Indian democracy is a relatively small chapter in India's long history and politicians do not yet have a place in its heirarchy. People fit politicians into existing cultural stereotypes depending on how they perceive them. Corrupt politicians are like the patwari - tolerated as long as their greed remains in check. Roiter-politicians are like local thugs - thrown out once they see a strong alternative. Gandhi was a saint - a Mahatma one could worship. Modi on the other hand is Huzoor Mai-baap Sarkar - whose rule is till God takes him away.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Of Leap Years and Lack of Holidays
Many know that the Hindu calendar is a lunar one. The lunar year (of 12 months) is about 354 days long. This means that there is a difference of 11 days, 1 hour, 31 minutes and 12 seconds between the solar year (followed by the western Gregorian Calendar) and the lunar one. Logically, this would mean that all Hindu festivals should keep shifting by 11 days a year, causing, say, Diwali to some year be in winter, other times be in summer. Yet this does not happen and festivals fall within one month range of the solar year. How does one explain this 'anamoly'.
Well, the answer is that the Gregorians aren't the only ones who thought of a leap year! There is one major difference though. The western calendar opts for an extra day every four years, while the Hindu calendar goes for an extra month every 2.5 years. Now, 11.06333 days * 2.5 years = 27.658333 days, but an additional lunar month would account for only 27.3 days. So what is to be done about the extra 8 hrs and 36 minutes that are piling up every 2.5 years? Well, the gregorian calendar too has a similar problem. The extra day every four years is a little longer than required, resulting in the 'leap year' being dropped in years divisible by 100, but not by 400 (so 2000 wass a leap year, but 1900 was not). Every 190 years, another month is added to the lunar year. Thus (8hrs 36 minutes * 190 / 2.5) = 27.3 days. Voila, the problem is solved!
The extra months are called अधिक मास। No festival falls during this month
Those of you cribing about the unusual lack of holidays should know that an adhik maas beginning 17th March is to blame - all festivals have got postponed for a month!

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Hitesh has gone multi-religious (I prefer that to the politically charged 'secular'). On the occassion of Buddha Purnima, I bring you a few vignettes of Buddha's veneration by other religions.


Many (may be even most) schools of Hinduism recognize Gautama Buddha as the ninth of the Dasha-avataara (ten incarnations) of Vishnu.

Buddhists do not take this 'recognition' very kindly. Among the ones who oppose this most virulently are Nayayana Buddhists, also called Ambedkarite Buddhists, one of who's 22 religious vows includes opposing the belief that Buddha is an avataara of Vishnu.
Hindu faith in Buddha has produced interesting results. Since Buddha is considered a member of the Hindu pantheon of gods, many Hindus believe in offering puja to Buddha at the temple of Mahabodhi at Gaya. A shrada (offering) to departed souls performed at Gaya is considered a sure shot way of freeing the souls from the cycle of birth and death - which Buddha called Nirvana and Hindus call Moksha. Interestingly another of the 22 Ambedkarite Buddhist vows is to not perform shrada! The Mahabodhi temple is an interesting effort at religious pluralism, its managing board consists 4 Hindu and 4 Buddhist members each. Not that this enables running of the temple in a non-controversial manner thoughNot all Hindus accept that Buddha is an avataar of Vishnu. While some Vaishnava traditions (especially South Indian ones) consider Krishna to be the 9th avataar (with Big Brother Balarama being the 8th one), the Gaudiya tradition (founded by Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and including ISKCON) considers Chaitanya Mahaprabhu to be the 9th avaatar.

Buddha is also said to be the St. Josaphat, who is venerated as a saint by many christian traditions. The life story of the two is identical and St. Josaphat was Indian.
Some noted Mulsim scholars like Maulana Abul Kalam Azad and Hamid Abdul Qadir believe that the prophet Dhu'l-Kifl mentioned in the Quran is non other than Buddha. This is however not universally accepted. Most scholars believe that Dhu'l-Kifl refers to the biblical Prophet
Buddha is a named prophet in Baha'ism along with Krishna, Zoroaster, Jesus, Mohammed and .
Shintoism has blended so well with Buddhism that the two are nearly indistinguishable in Japan. Many a Shinto diety is considered a manifestation of some Buddhist diety or other (a task simplified by the numerous Bodhisattvas up for grabs!).

By the way, today is not universally recognized at Buddha's birthday. By Chinese traditions Buddha's birthday will fall on May 24th (8th day of 4th chinese month).
Also Gautama is not the only Buddha, neither is he the first. He is said to be the 28th Buddha. Buddhist tradition two talks of another visit by the divine. Maitreya would be the 29th Buddha.

Monday, April 30, 2007

We live in weird times. While on one hand there so much हल्ला about ex-beauty queen Aishwarya's marriage, there are others who have achieved much greater things, yet have received little publicity. Here is a link to Miss India 1979 Swarup Sampath's doctoral degree award for her research on dyslexic children. She received her degree a few weeks ago.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Most of my school time friends, having been brought up in Bangalore, often remark that the city has changed. It has, and in more than one way. One is the proliferation of eunuchs in Bangalore. Also called Hijras, Chakkas, Ombods, they are to be seen everyway nowadays, even places like Brigade Road. Their prescence has been acknowledged by history and mythology. Shikandi was a eunuch, as were most of the imperial guards in the fabled Forbidden City. But let me start from the begining.My odd tryst with the 'third sex' started with Friday's episode of Colgate MaxFresh अन्ताक्षरी - हर अक्षर पे खेलागा इंडिया (too लॉन्ग अ नामे). As usual the episode begun with Anu Kapoor singing a song, only this time he was accompanied by 5 eunuch's. The song (predictably) was चुनर घोटे में from Mehmood's कुवारा बाप. The eunuch's played their part well - gaudy clothes, incesstant clapping and yelling, all the standard quirks of their kind. This was followed later in the show by another of their anthem's - तय्यब अली प्यार का दुश्मन हाय हाय! If this episode was it, it wouldn't merit a blog post - there was more. On Saturday I decided to watch 'Meet the Robinson's' at Inox. Shitanshu came along - no he is not a eunuch. When walking down Brigade Road, we met a pack of them. Oddly, they were not troubling anyone. They seemed to be on a shopping spree (had lots of bags from one of the Levi's stores of Brigade Road). They were having a nice time, one hungry look towards an innocent male, and he near-faints. I tell this by personal experience.When I came across somemore of their ilk on Sunday it got really errie. Thankfully they behaved like their stereotype - called me Raja, manhandled me, extorted 10 bucks... normal ones would have freaked me out! जाते जाते they blessed me a happy married life, complete with a fertile wife and a zillion kids. Muhahahahahaha, my scheme of world-domination is gonna come true!

Monday, April 16, 2007

Its taken me over 9 months to write a new entry! I had almost abandoned it, but then I got a message from someone empathizing with my dislike of b-schools (look at the post below for why)! Well, I have moved on, and the junta here has shown other facets of the personality! Without going into greater details I would simply say that I am prone to making hasty judgements. Sometimes they are incorrect.One year done, another to go. I am interning in HP Bangalore right now. It feels great to be in Bangalore for a period longer than 10 days. For all the poor roads and horrendous traffic, Lalbagh and April showers are things that no other megacity in India can match.My parents went to a ज्योत्शी (astrologer) yesterday. I wasn't pleased by this abject display of lack of trust in the family seer (me!). But its ok, I guess. Astology is afterall somewhat scientific, unlike the foundationless musings of seer (to find out the difference between the too, let me know). वेद पंडित शंमुखानंद (VPS) made predictions for the my father, mother and sister (I made my parents promise that they wouldn't show him my जन्मपत्र). He had some interesting things to say. First he said that my father, sister and I have all had a 'साड्डे-साती ' (a period of time when Saturn is in particularly foul mood and decides to leave you in a similar one) running since 2000. I jumped at this: they showed him my chart! Father then went into a monologue about how he has my best interests at heart, blah blah. Whatever. As can be deduced from its name 'साड्डे-साती' lasts for 7 1/2 years, which means till later this year. That means... we're gonna be wealthy soon! Time for the hurrays, eh? Father certainly thinks so. VPS also said that within six months of the dawn of the non- साड्डे-साती (poorly put, sorry!) period, we would have a house of our own, millions of rupees in wealth and what not! Then things became interesting. VPS told my father that any property he buys, he should register mom as the owner. Mom was listening :) She can't stop gloating ever since, and if my grandad wasn't a jyotshi himself, my dad would have had some choicy words for the entire ilk! VPS went on to say that four years from now, both my sister and I would be married. My sis wasn't amused (see is barely 18 right now). My dad was surprised too, he always planned to send her packing at a much later date. He (according to my mom) was immediately enveloped with the bharatiya baap's greatest fear - dear beti is gonna elope! VPS assured him that this wouldn't happen and that both of us will have arranged marriages. Whether he saw this in the charts or whether my father's hysterics made him chuck his professional ethics aside, we would probably never know. Anyway, it was my mom's turn to display her set of insecurities - VPS assured her that her bahu would maintain cordial relations for I will always remain with them in a joint family (I can't see the relation, Ekta Kapoor's soaps show how 'joint' is not the same as 'cordial'!). Mom then asked if I would ever work abroad. VPS said yes, for atleast 3 years. Dad was shocked - beta to gaya haat se. He made my mother promise not tell me the same ('he will get ideas'). Nevertheless, much to my mom's consternation, he told the same himself. He then told me that I had an opportunity to prove that my grandpa was the only good panditji ever - not go abroad and prove VPS a fraud. I (quite cheekily) said that I wouldn't do that, for an attack on him would be an attack on ज्योतिष itself. Placing my hand on my heart, I said that I couldn't do this to ancient Indian heritage! Besides, who are we to challenge God's idea of pre-determination? Dad nearly slapped me! VPS also said that after a few years of work for a company, I would start my own 'business'. Now that is strange. Why would I leave the comfort and security of a regular job? That would be very out of character of me. He also said that the business would be an imort/export of computer stuff (wonder which new planet suddenly appeared in the 50s to enable astrologers to assign this new business to clients) and that I would then become filthy rich (hehehe). He ended it all by saying that we would have good times ahead. Frankly, that sounds more like a signing off statement than a prediction! Mom probably had a dream where I refused to return from America and Dad had one where my sis eloped for the 10th time or something - stupid astrologer!